Stretching with the cage
Read “Hose Deployment the Finnish Way – Preface” for an overview of the department
I have been following several American firefighting websites during the past years, comparing the equipment, SOPs, tactics and culture with what we have here in Finland. Some things are very similar, some things are very different. Throughout the years, I have been able to borrow some ideas from you and adapt them to our environment. When I was given the opportunity to write this article and return the favor, I did not hesitate to accept.
In this article, I am going to start by giving a brief overview of how the emergency services are handled in Finland. After that I am going to proceed to the main subject of the article, which is how we pack and deploy hose. I will finish with a brief overview of our most common SOPs for hoseline deployment and how we train on them.
Emergency Services in Finland
The emergency services in Finland are handled by 22 regional fire departments (or rescue departments if you translate the term directly). These departments are administered by the largest city and the cost is shared by all the other cities and municipalities in the region.
The regional fire departments employ full-time firefighters that cover the urban areas. The rest of the country (90% of the area and 46% of the population) is covered by contract firefighters. You will also find contract firefighters in the urban areas, where they support or complement the full-time crews.
The contract firefighter can either have a personal contract with the regional fire department, or be a member of a voluntary fire department which in turn has a contract with the regional fire department. Contract firefighters have other daytime jobs and the regional fire department provides their PPE, tools and vehicles.
A contract fire officer can never act as the incident commander; only full-time officers and chiefs are allowed to do that by law. When a contract rescue unit is alone at the scene, its officer will act as the “on-scene commander”, while one of the chiefs on duty will remotely act as the formal incident commander.
Most full-time firefighters in Finland receive their training at the Emergency Services College in the city of Kuopio and the training takes one and a half years. The city of Helsinki has its own college and their training takes slightly longer.
Contract firefighters participate in a set of courses that are arranged locally – normally during evenings and weekends – with full-time firefighters acting as trainers. Depending on which courses you have passed, you are allowed to perform different tasks at the fire ground. Some courses are required by law, others are optional.
The SOPs are mostly the same everywhere in Finland, with local variations and adaptions based on the operating environment. For example, fighting a fire in Lapland or on an island in the archipelago is different from fighting a fire in downtown Helsinki.
A typical rescue unit in Finland is a pumper that carries 2500 – 3000 liters (660 – 790 gallons) of water, a portable extension ladder, hose, nozzles, different hand tools, etc. Many units also carry the jaws of life, water rescue equipment and/or EMS equipment. Some units carry hazmat equipment as well.
The ideal crew size is six, but four is the most common. Even though this is formally the minimum crew size, crews of only three firefighters are unfortunately getting more common for various reasons. There is no separation of engine companies and truck companies in Finland; the rescue units are used for all tasks and jobs (a bit like squads in the US, if I am not mistaken). Our aerials are typically manned by one or two firefighters and they often work under the command of a rescue unit.
You can normally find hydrants in the urban areas. The older ones are under ground, whereas the newer ones are above ground inside insulated plastic boxes. The reason for this is the snow and low temperature during the winter. In rural areas, water is provided by tanker units or pumped from natural water sources.
Introducing Hose Cages
In Finland, hose is often stored in boxes or cages. Our fire department uses a metallic cage that can hold either 40 meters (131 feet) of 3-inch hose or 60 meters (196 feet) of 1.5-inch hose. There are also other sizes and materials on the market (e.g. plywood boxes).
In our region, pumpers should carry at least five cages of each, which adds up to a total of 200 meters (656 feet) of 3-inch hose and 300 meters (984 feet) of 1.5-inch hose. One firefighter can carry and deploy two cages.
Hose cages with 3-inch and 1.5-inch hose. The right-most cage is an attack cage that only contains 40 meters (131 feet) of 1.5-inch hose and a nozzle. (Robert Kronberg photo)
A Finnish “hose bed” of a pumper. (Robert Kronberg photo)
Deploying the Hose
Deploying the hose from a cage is easy – you just take the coupling, attach it to the pump, a wye or another hose and walk (or run). The hose will fold out by itself as you go. This is especially useful for long stretches or stretches up staircases.
A single firefighter can carry and deploy two cages. (Robert Kronberg photo)
When you need to deploy the hose in a smaller area, for example inside a hallway before entering an apartment or on the lawn of a private dwelling, it gets a little trickier. Depending on the situation, you have a few options. You could just grab the hose and throw it out, you could walk (or run) back and forth until the hose is out or you could climb up to the next floor and down again (in apartment buildings). If you can get another firefighter to assist you, he or she can grab one or two folds of the remaining hose and walk in one direction while you walk in the other direction.
Deploying the remaining hose by throwing it out. (Robert Kronberg photo)
Deploying the remaining hose by walking back and forth. (Robert Kronberg photo)
Deploying the remaining hose with the help of another firefighter. (Robert Kronberg photo)
Finally, you can combine this method with other hose deployment options like starting with cage deployment and finishing with a Cleveland load. As a side note, the Cleveland load is not common in Finland, but our fire department has one; it is especially useful for deployment in boats.
Packing the Hose
The most important thing to remember when packing a hose into a cage or box is to begin by rolling it tightly to squeeze all the air out. Otherwise you will be having a hard time getting the hose to fit properly.
After that, you will start with the coupling that will eventually be connected to the nozzle. In Finland, we use claw couplings so it does not matter which end goes in first, but if you are using male/female couplings, you have to pay attention. Most cages have a lower wall at the end of the cage from which the hose is supposed to be deployed. If you have a cage without solid walls on the sides, it is a good idea to leave the coupling at this wall to prevent it from getting stuck in the vertical bars during deployment. If you have a box with solid walls, it does not matter where you leave the coupling.
Next, you start to fold the hose into the cage. The first two or three rounds should go from the wall to the coupling, the remaining rounds should go on top of the coupling from wall to wall. This will make the hose bed more even.
You can load a cage alone, but it is easier and quicker if you have another firefighter assisting you with feeding the hose.
When loading 3-inch hose, you just fold it in since the cage and the hose have the same width. When loading 1.5-inch or 2-inch hose, you use a Z-pattern to distribute the hose evenly inside the cage.
If the cage is wider than the hose, use a Z-pattern when loading it. (Robert Kronberg photo)
When one hose is loaded, you connect it to the next one and continue until the cage is full. And that is all there is to it.
If you want to preconnect a nozzle, you can do that. In this case, you have to start by pulling the hose right through the cage and leave the first coupling on the surface you are working on. Then you load the rest of the hose in the normal way. Finally, you take the first coupling, pull it back into the cage and over the rest of the hose and attach the nozzle.
Starting position when loading a cage with a preconnected nozzle. (Robert Kronberg photo)
Loaded cage with a preconnected nozzle. (Robert Kronberg photo)
SOP’s andÂ Training
There are standard operating procedures for hose deployment and they are pretty much the same in the entire country. Depending on the size of the crew and where you sit in the apparatus, there are predefined tasks you need to perform and equipment you need to bring. All firefighters must know these SOPs so that the hoseline can be deployed quickly and safely, even in the middle of the night in -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit). And no, it is not always that cold in Finland even though many foreigners seem to think so…
At smaller fires that can be handled with a single handline, a 1.5-inch hoseline is deployed straight from the pump (unless the pump is equipped with a fixed booster line that can be used instead).
In all other cases, we normally start with a 3″-line that is connected to a wye and then we proceed with 1.5″-lines. The wyes we use support double 3″-lines for increased safety, in case one of the lines would break. Double lines must be used when operating inside burning structures.
A basic deployment with a crew of four would go like this:
- the unit officer does a size-up, decides what deployment procedure and attack route to use and gives the order.
- the chauffeur deploys the 3-inch line and the wye.
Often, there is a single 3-inch hose folded next to the pump with a preconnected wye, so you just grab the wye and run.
- Â the first firefighter (sitting behind the officer) connects the 1.5-inch line to the wye, deploys it and attaches the nozzle.
- Â the second firefighter (sitting behind the chauffeur) brings tools for forcible entry and works in pair with the first firefighter.
Basic hoseline deployment to the roof using portable ladders and a crew of six. (Petter HolmstrÃ¶m photo)
When the 3-inch line consists of a single hose and the 1.5-inch line of two hoses, the time between the order and water coming out the nozzle cannot exceed 60 seconds. This is the target to aim for during drilling and with a good crew, you can even get this done in about half the time.
There are more advanced variations of this deployment procedure that also need to be trained with different crew sizes:
- Â Deployment to the roof using portable ladders (deployment must not exceed two and a half minutes)
- Â Deployment to an upper floor through the staircase (deployment to the fifth floor must not exceed four minutes)
- Â Deployment to an upper floor, deploying the hoseline through a window or balcony
- Â Deployment with a 3-inch line all the way to the nozzle (when larger amounts of water are needed)
- Â Deployment using foam
Then you can make the scenarios even more advanced by deploying multiple handlines, adding supply lines from hydrants, tankers or portable pumps, simulating pump or hose failure, etc.
About the Author and his Department
Petter HolmstrÃ¶m is the deputy chief and training officer of the voluntary fire department of Pargas, which is located in the south-west archipelago of Finland. He joined the fire department as a junior at the age of 10 and has been an active member ever since. He is 31 years old, married with three sons, has an M.Sc.Tech. in software engineering and works as a software architect. He belongs to the minority in Finland who speaks Swedish – the second official language of the country.
The fire department has a contract with the Southwest Finland Emergency Services in the city of Turku and responds with a minimum crew of four within 10 minutes of being dispatched.
The fire station is shared with a full-time crew that operates an ambulance, a pumper, a boat and an aerial. The voluntary fire department has its own pumper. In addition, there is a smaller boat and a tanker unit that are operated by both the full-time crew and the contract crew.
The response area is completely surrounded by water and covers a population of about 12 000 people, private dwellings, commercial buildings, apartment buildings (the highest ones are seven stories), some heavy industry, an open-pit mine, fields and forests, farms and lots of small islands that can only be reached by boat. There is also another contract fire department in the response area.
The area is pretty quiet, which means a lot of emphasis is put on training to keep the crews in shape. The full-time crew takes care of most of the calls and the contract units are only dispatched when more than one unit is – or might be – needed to handle the call. In the year 2014, the voluntary fire department of Pargas was only dispatched 39 times, with most of the calls coming in during the summer months of June, July and August.